Between the flashing Christmas lights and piñatas, you can find nacimientos - nativities on display here in México during the Christmas season.
In México, many families participate in a posada - commonly a re-enactment of Mary & Joseph looking for an inn in Bethlehem. Each family in a neighborhood will schedule a night to host the posada during a 9-day period, leading up to December 24th. Each night, the group of pereginos - pilgrims wander from house to house with lit candles, looking for a place to stay. They make their request through a special song. Then they are turned away, until they reach the home of the host, where they pray the Rosary and sing hymns of praise in front of the nativity. Then the children are blindfolded and try to break open a piñata with a stick. The piñata is often full of candies, fruit, and peanuts usually accompanied by a regional hot ponche - punch for the adults.
This year, our mission, Cristo Resuscitado, offered special activities during this joyous Christmas season. The events included decorating the church, a Christmas for Kids night, and a fellowship potluck with a piñata for the children (and adults). In preparation for these activities, several of our prospects introduced some Christmas traditions to us. We discovered that children enjoy little wrapped candies and mandarin oranges along with freshly cut sugar cane as a special gift in addition to our homemade cookies.
Regarding decorations, we found out the nativity scenes can become quite detailed including ponds made out of foil to house ducks surrounded by paper palm trees. Much work is put into setting up the nativity, but baby Jesus isn't placed in the manger until midnight. This is connected to the family custom of rocking baby Jesus late Christmas Eve after a special meal.
It is a challenge to distinguish between family traditions and religious customs. As a mission, we are slowly developing our own congregational Christian traditions with input from the members and prospects focused on Jesus Christ our Savior.
We were delighted to almost have standing room only for our special Noche Buena - Christmas Eve Service and 21 for our Sunday morning Christmas Day service.
May God continue to bless the efforts of telling the story of Jesus around the world!